War Is Coming …

… and the Global Financial Situation is a Lot Worse than You may Think

by Michael Snyder

The Economic Collapse (July 13 2016)

On the surface, things seem pretty quiet in mid-July 2016. The biggest news stories are about the speculation surrounding Donald Trump’s choice of running mate, the stock market in the US keeps setting new all-time record highs, and the media seems completely obsessed with Taylor Swift’s love life. But underneath the surface, it is a very different story. As you will see below, the conditions for a “perfect storm” are coming together very rapidly, and the rest of 2016 promises to be much more chaotic than what we have seen so far.

Let’s start with China. On Tuesday, an international tribunal in the Hague ruled against China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Chinese government announced ahead of time that they do not recognize the jurisdiction of the tribunal, and they have absolutely no intention of abiding by the ruling. In fact, China is becoming even more defiant in the aftermath of this ruling. We aren’t hearing much about it in the US media, but according to international news reports Chinese president Xi Jinping has ordered the People’s Liberation Army “to prepare for combat” with the United States if the Obama administration presses China to abandon the islands that they are currently occupying in the South China Sea …

 

 

“Chinese president Xi Jinping has reportedly ordered the People’s Liberation Army to prepare for combat”, reports Arirang.com. “US-based Boxun News said Tuesday that the instruction was given in case the United States takes provocative action in the waters once the ruling is made”.

A US aircraft carrier and fighter jets were already sent to the region in anticipation of the ruling, with the Chinese Navy also carrying out exercises near the disputed Paracel islands.

Last October, China said it was “not frightened” to fight a war with the US following an incident where the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen violated the twelve-nautical mile zone China claims around Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

 

 

Meanwhile, the relationship between the United States and Russia continues to go from bad to worse. The installation of a missile defense system in Romania is just the latest incident that has the Russians absolutely steaming, and during a public appearance on June 17th Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to get western reporters to understand that the world is being pulled toward war …

 

 

We know year by year what’s going to happen, and they know that we know. It’s only you that they tell tall tales to, and you buy it, and spread it to the citizens of your countries. You people in turn do not feel a sense of the impending danger – this is what worries me. How do you not understand that the world is being pulled in an irreversible direction? While they pretend that nothing is going on. I don’t know how to get through to you anymore.

 

 

And of course the Russians have been feverishly updating and modernizing their military in preparation for a potential future conflict with the United States. Just today we learned that the Russians are working to develop a hypersonic strategic bomber that is going to have the capability of striking targets with nuclear warheads from outer space.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration does not feel a similar sense of urgency. The size of our strategic nuclear arsenal has declined by about 95 percent since the peak of the Cold War, and many of our installations are still actually using rotary phones and the kind of eight-inch floppy disks for computers that were widely used back in the 1970s.

But I don’t expect war with China or Russia to erupt by the end of 2016. Of much more immediate concern is what is going on in the Middle East. The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, but it is Israel that could soon be the center of attention.

Back in March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration wanted to revive the peace process in the Middle East before Obama left office, and that a UN Security Council resolution that would divide the land of Israel and set the parameters for a Palestinian state was still definitely on the table …

 

 

The White House is working on plans for reviving long-stalled Middle East negotiations before President Barack Obama leaves office, including a possible United Nations Security Council resolution that would outline steps toward a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians, according to senior US officials.

 

 

And just this week, the Washington Post reported that there were renewed “rumblings” about just such a resolution …

 

 

Israel is facing a restive European Union, which is backing a French initiative that seeks to outline a future peace deal by year’s end that would probably include a call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and the creation of a Palestinian state. There are also rumblings that the UN Security Council might again hear resolutions about the conflict.

 

 

For years, Barack Obama has stressed the need for a Palestinian state, and now that his second term is drawing to a close he certainly realizes that this is his last chance to take action at the United Nations. If he is going to pull the trigger and support a UN resolution formally establishing a Palestinian state, it will almost certainly happen before the election in November. So over the coming months we will be watching these developments very carefully.

And it is interesting to note that there is an organization called “Americans For Peace Now” that is collecting signatures and strongly urging Obama to support a UN resolution of this nature. The following comes from their official website …

 

 

Now is the time for real leadership that can revive and re-accredit the two-state solution as President Obama enters his final months in office. And he can do this – he can lay the groundwork for a two-state agreement in the future by supporting an Israeli-Palestinian two-state resolution in the United Nations Security Council.

Such a resolution would restore US leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. It would preserve the now-foundering two-state outcome. And it would be a gift to the next president, leaving her or him constructive options for consequential actions in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, in place of the ever-worsening, politically stalemated status quo there is today.

 

 

Sadly, a UN resolution that divides the land of Israel and that formally establishes a Palestinian state would not bring lasting peace. Instead, it would be the biggest mistake of the Obama era, and it would set the stage for a major war between Israel and her neighbors. This is something that I discussed during a recent televised appearance down at Morningside that you can watch right here:
 

 
At the same time all of this is going on, the global economic crisis continues to escalate. Even though US financial markets are in great shape at the moment, the same cannot be said for much of the rest of the world.

Just look at the country that is hosting the Olympics this summer. Brazil is mired in the worst economic downturn that it has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and Rio de Janeiro’s governor has declared “a state of financial emergency”.

Next door, the Venezuelan economy has completely collapsed, and some people have become so desperate that they are actually hunting cats, dogs and pigeons for food.

Elsewhere, China is experiencing the worst economic downturn that they have seen in decades, the Japanese are still trying to find the end of their “lost decade”, and the banking crisis in Europe is getting worse with each passing month.

In quite a few articles recently, I have discussed the ongoing implosion of the biggest and most important bank in Germany. But I am certainly not the only one warning about this. In one of his recent articles, Simon Black also commented on the turmoil at “the most dangerous bank in Europe”…

 

 

Well-capitalized banks are supposed to have double-digit capital levels while making low risk investments.

Deutsche Bank, on the other hand, has a capital level of less that three percent (just like Lehman), and an incredibly risky asset base that boasts notional derivatives exposure of more than $70 trillion, roughly the size of world GDP.

 

 

But of course Deutsche Bank isn’t getting a lot of attention from the mainstream media right now because of the stunning meltdown of banks in Italy, Spain and Greece. Here is more from Simon Black …

 

 

Italian banks are sitting on over 360 billion euros in bad loans right now and are in desperate need of a massive bailout.

IMF calculations show that Italian banks’ capital levels are among the lowest in the world, just ahead of Bangladesh.

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of problems in other banking jurisdictions.

Spanish banks have been scrambling to raise billions in capital to cover persistent losses that still haven’t healed from the last crisis.

In Greece, over 35% of all loans in the banking system are classified as “non-performing”.

 

 

Even though US stocks are doing well for the moment, the truth is that trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has been lost globally since this time last year. If you are not familiar with what has been going on around the rest of the planet, this may come as a surprise to you. During my recent appearance at Morningside, I shared some very startling charts which show how dramatically global markets have shifted over the past twelve months. You can view the segment in which I shared these charts right here: https://youtu.be/Fd3AddxTz3w

I would really like it if the rest of 2016 was as quiet and peaceful as the past couple of days have been.

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that is going to be the case at all.

The storm clouds are rising and the conditions for a “perfect storm” are brewing. Sadly, most people are not going to understand what is happening until it is far too late.

_____

 

For links to further information, see original article at URL below:

http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/war-is-coming-and-the-global-financial-situation-is-a-lot-worse-than-you-may-think

Categories: Uncategorized

Gestapo America

by Paul Craig Roberts

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org (July 13 2016)

FBI Director James Comey got Hillary off the hook but wants to put you on it. He is pushing hard for warrantless access to all of your Internet activity.

Comey, who would have fit in perfectly with Hitler’s Gestapo, tells Congress that the United States is not safe unless the FBI knows when every American goes online, to whom they are sending emails and from whom they are receiving emails, and knows every website visited by every American.

In other words, Comey wants to render null and void the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution and completely destroy your privacy rights.

The reason Washington wants to know everything about everyone is so that Washington can embarrass, blackmail, and frame on felony charges patriots who stand up in defense of the US Constitution and the rule of law, and dissidents who criticize Washington’s illegal wars, reckless foreign policies, and oppression of American citizens.

Washington’s demand for power has nothing to do with our security. It has to do with destroying the security that the US Constitution gives us.

The security that Comey wants to protect is not our security or the national security of the United States. Comey’s intent is to make Washington secure despite its violations of statutory law and the US Constitution. The way Comey intends to do this is by intimidating, harassing, and arresting Washington’s critics.

Comey wants the unconstitutional power to demand from the providers of telephone and Internet services all records and information about you. These demands are not to be subject to oversight by courts, and the communication companies that serve you are prohibited from telling you that all of your information has been given to the FBI.

US Senators rushed to stick their swords into the Fourth Amendment. John Cornyn slapped an FBI-written amendment on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Amendments Act of 2015. This caused the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International to withdraw their support for the act, which caused the act to be withdrawn.

Senator John McCain rushed to the aid of the FBI. This Constitution-hating senator proposed an amendment to a criminal justice appropriations bill that would use a provision in the unconstitutional PATRIOT Act to grant the unlimited unaccountable power to the FBI to totally destroy your privacy.

McCain’s amendment failed, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican, Kentucky) changed his vote so that he could negate the Senate’s vote with a vote to reconsider.

The FBI’s senators will continue with amendments to legislation, related or not, until they deliver to the FBI the power it wants.

Unfortunately, most Americans today, unlike their forebears, are too ignorant and uneducated to know the value of the privacy rights that our Founding Fathers put in the US Constitution. The imbeciles say nonsense such as: “I haven’t done anything wrong. I have nothing to fear.” God help the imbeciles.

If the American people were sufficiently sophisticated, they perhaps would wonder why such a large chunk of the US Senate had rather represent the FBI than the American people, their constituents who elected them to represent the people in the state, not a police power in Washington.

Why are so many US senators more responsive to the FBI’s desire for Gestapo police power than they are to the civil liberties embodied in the US Constitution?

As the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and the Defending Dissent Foundation show, the Orlando shootings, the Dallas shootings and whatever shootings, real or staged, next occur have nothing to do with the FBI’s demand to completely destroy all privacy rights of the American people: http://bordc.org/news/senate-rejects-amendment-expanding-fbi-surveillance-powers-by-narrow-margin/.

What’s that I hear? You say you knew nothing about this? Little wonder. Your media consist of people well paid to deceive you and to deliver you into a Police State. To strip you of all constitutional protection and deliver you unprotected to a police state is the function of the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox “News”, CNN, the rest of the presstitute print and TV media and many Internet sites.

Adolf Hitler is alive and well in the United States, and he is fast rising to power.

Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/07/13/gestapo-america-paul-craig-roberts/

Categories: Uncategorized

Scientific Education …

… as a Cause of Political Stupidity

by John Michael Greer

The Archdruid Report (July 13 2016)

Druid perspectives on nature, culture, and the future of industrial society

While we’re discussing education, the theme of the current series of posts here on The Archdruid Report, it’s necessary to point out that there are downsides as well as upsides to take into account. The savant so saturated in abstractions that he’s hopelessly inept at the business of everyday life has been a figure of fun in literature for many centuries now, not least because examples of the type are so easy to find in every age.

That said, certain kinds of education have more tightly focused downsides. It so happens, for example, that engineers have contributed rather more to crackpot literature than most other professions. Hollow-earth theories, ancient-astronaut speculations, treatises arguing that the lost continent of Atlantis is located nearly anywhere on Earth except where Plato said it was – well, I could go on; engineers have written a really impressive share of the gaudier works in such fields. In my misspent youth, I used to collect such books as a source of imaginative entertainment, and when the jacket claimed the author was some kind of engineer, I knew I was in for a treat.

I treated that as an interesting coincidence until I spent a couple of years working for a microfilming company in Seattle that was owned by a retired Boeing engineer. He was also a devout fundamentalist Christian and a young-Earth creationist; he’d written quite a bit of creationist literature, though I never heard that any of it was published except as densely typed photocopied handouts – and all of it displayed a very specific logic: given that the Earth was created by God on October 23, 4004 BCE, at 9:00 in the morning, how can we explain the things we find on Earth today?

That is to say, he approached it as an engineering problem.

Engineers are trained to figure out what works. Give them a problem, and they’ll beaver away until they find a solution – that’s their job, and the engineering profession has been around long enough, and had enough opportunities to refine its methods of education, that a training in engineering does a fine job of teaching you how to work from a problem to a solution. What it doesn’t teach you is how to question the problem. That’s why, to turn to another example, you get entire books that start from the assumption that the book of Ezekiel was about a UFO sighting and proceed to work out, in impressive detail, exactly what the UFO must have looked like, how it was powered, and so on. “But how do we know it was a UFO sighting in the first place?” is the one question that never really gets addressed.

It’s occurred to me recently that another specific blindness seems to be hardwired into another mode of education, one that’s both prestigious and popular these days: a scientific education – that is to say, a technical education in the theory and practice of one of the hard sciences.  The downside to such an education, I’d like to suggest, is that it makes you stupid about politics. Plenty of examples come to mind, and I’ll be addressing some of the others shortly, but the one I want to start with is classic in its simplicity, not to mention its simple-mindedness. This is the recent proposal by astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson, which I quote in full:

 

Earth needs a virtual country: #Rationalia, with a one-line Constitution: All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence.  – Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) June 29 2016

 

That might be dismissed as just another example of the thought-curtailing properties of Twitter’s 140-character limit – if a potter makes pots, what does Twitter make? – except that Tyson didn’t say, “here’s the principle behind the constitution, details to follow”. That’s his proposed constitution in its entirety.

More precisely, that’s his sound bite masquerading as a constitution. An actual constitution, as anyone knows who has actually read one, doesn’t just engage in a bit of abstract handwaving about how decisions are to be made. It sets out in detail who makes the decisions, how the decision-makers are selected, what checks and balances are meant to keep the decision-makers from abusing their positions, and so on. If Donald Trump, say, gave a speech saying, “We need a new scientific method that consists solely of finding the right answer”, he’d be mocked for not knowing the first thing about science. A similar response is appropriate here.

That said, Tyson’s proposal embodies another dimension of cluelessness about politics. Insisting that political decisions ought to be made exclusively on the basis of evidence sounds great, until you try to apply it to actual politics. Take that latter step, and what you’ll discover is that evidence is only tangentially relevant to most political decisions.

Consider the recent British referendum over whether to leave the European Union. That decision could not have been made on the basis of evidence, because all sides, as far as I know, agreed on the facts.  Those were that Britain had joined the European Economic Community (as it then was) in 1973, that its membership involved ceding certain elements of national sovereignty to EU bureaucracies, and that EU policies benefited certain people in Britain while disadvantaging others. None of those points were at issue. The points that were at issue were values on the one hand, and interests on the other.

By values I mean judgements, by individuals and communities, about what matters and what doesn’t, what’s desirable and what isn’t, what can be tolerated and what can’t. These can’t be reduced to mere questions of evidence. A statement such as “the free movement of people across national borders is good and important” can’t be proved or disproved by any number of double-blind controlled studies. It’s a value that some people hold and others don’t, as is the statement “the right of people to self-determination must be protected from the encroachments of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels”. Those values are in conflict with each other, and it was in large part over such values that the Brexit election was fought out and decided.

By interests I mean the relative distribution of costs and benefits. Any political decision, about any but the most trivial subject, brings benefits and has costs, and far more often than not the people who get the benefits and the people who carry the costs are not the same. EU membership for Britain was a case in point. By and large, the affluent got the majority of the benefits – they were the ones who could send their children to German universities and count on border-free travel to holidays in Spain – and the working poor carried the majority of the costs – they were the ones who had to compete for jobs against a rising tide of immigrants, while the number of available jobs declined due to EU policies that encouraged offshoring of industry to lower-wage countries.

What made the Brexit referendum fascinating, at least to me, was the way that so many of the pro-EU affluent tried to insist that the choice was purely about values, and that any talk about the interests of the working poor was driven purely by racism and xenophobia – that is to say, values.  As I’ve noted here in numerous posts, the affluent classes in the industrial world have spent the last four decades or so throwing the working poor under the bus and then rolling the wheels back and forth over them, while insisting at the top of their lungs that they’re doing nothing of the kind.

Wage earners, and the millions who would be happy to earn a wage if they could find work, know better.  Here in America, for example, most people outside the echo chambers of the affluent remember perfectly well that forty years ago, a family with one working class income could afford a house, a car, and the other amenities of life, while today, a family with one working class income is probably living on the street. Shouting down open discussion of interests by insisting that all political decisions have to do solely with values has been a common strategy on the part of the affluent; the outcome of the Brexit referendum is one of several signs that this strategy is near the end of its shelf life.

In the real world – the world where politics has to function – interests come first. Whether you or I are benefited or harmed, enriched or impoverished by some set of government policies is the bedrock of political reality. Evidence plays a role: yes, this policy will benefit these people; no, these other people won’t share in those benefits – those are questions of fact, but settling them doesn’t settle the broader question. Values also play a role, but there are always competing values affecting any political decision worth the name; the pursuit of liberty conflicts with the pursuit of equality, justice and mercy pull in different directions, and so on.

To make a political decision, you sort through the evidence to find the facts that are most relevant to the issue – and “relevant”, please note, is a value judgement, not a simple matter of fact. Using the relevant evidence as a framework, you weigh competing values against one another – this also involves a value judgment – and then you weigh competing interests against one another, and look for a compromise on which most of the contending parties can more or less agree. If no such compromise can be found, in a democratic society, you put it to a vote and do what the majority says. That’s how politics is done; we might even call it the political method.

That’s not how science is done, though. The scientific method is a way of finding out which statements about nature are false and discarding them, under the not unreasonable assumption that you’ll be left with a set of statements about nature that are as close as possible to the truth. That process rules out compromise. If you’re Lavoisier and you’re trying to figure out how combustion works, you don’t say, hey, here’s the oxygenation theory and there’s the phlogiston theory, let’s agree that half of combustion happens one way and the other half the other; you work out an experiment that will disprove one of them, and accept its verdict. What’s inadmissible in science, though, is the heart of competent politics.

In science, furthermore, interests are entirely irrelevant in theory. (In practice – well, we’ll get to that in a bit.)  Decisions about values are transferred from the individual scientist to the scientific community via such practices as peer review, which make and enforce value judgments about what counts as good, relevant, and important research in each field. The point of these habits is to give scientists as much room as possible to focus purely on the evidence, so that facts can be known as facts, without interference from values or interests. It’s precisely the habits of mind that exclude values and interests from questions of fact in scientific research that make modern science one of the great intellectual achievements of human history, on a par with the invention of logic by the ancient Greeks.

One of the great intellectual crises of the ancient world, in turn, was the discovery that logic was not the solution to every human problem. A similar crisis hangs over the modern world, as claims that science can solve all human problems prove increasingly hard to defend, and the shrill insistence by figures such as Tyson that it just ain’t so should be read as evidence for the imminence of real trouble. Tyson himself has demonstrated clearly enough that a first-rate grasp of astronomy does not prevent the kind of elementary mistake that gets you an F in Political Science 101. He’s hardly alone in displaying the limits of a scientific education; Richard Dawkins is a thoroughly brilliant biologist, but whenever he opens his mouth about religion, he makes the kind of crass generalizations and jawdropping non sequiturs that college sophomores used to find embarrassingly crude.

None of this is helped by the habit, increasingly common in the scientific community, of demanding that questions having to do with values and interests should be decided, not on the evidence, but purely on the social prestige of science. I’m thinking here of the furious open letter signed by a bunch of Nobel laureates, assailing Greenpeace for opposing the testing and sale of genetically engineered rice. It’s a complicated issue, as we’ll see in a moment, but you won’t find that reflected in the open letter. Its argument is simple: we’re scientists, you’re not, and therefore you should shut up and do as we say.

Let’s take this apart a step at a time. To begin with, the decision to allow or prohibit the testing and sale of genetically engineered rice is inherently  political rather than scientific. Scientific research, as noted above, deals with facts as facts, without reference to values or interests. “If you do X, then Y will happen” – that’s a scientific statement, and if it’s backed by adequate research and replicable testing, it’s useful as a way of framing decisions. The decisions, though, will inevitably be made on the basis of values and interests. “Y is a good thing, therefore you should do X” is a value judgment; “Y will cost me and benefit you, therefore you’re going to have to give me something to get me to agree to X” is a statement of interest – and any political decision that claims to ignore values and interests is either incompetent or dishonest.

There are, as it happens, serious questions of value and interest surrounding the genetically engineered rice under discussion. It’s been modified so that it produces vitamin A, which other strains of rice don’t have, and thus will help prevent certain kinds of blindness – that’s one side of the conflict of values. On the other side, most seed rice in the Third World is saved from the previous year’s crop, not purchased from seed suppliers, and the marketing of the GMO rice thus represents yet another means for a big multinational corporation to pump money out of the pockets of some of the poorest people on earth to enrich stockholders in the industrial world. There are many other ways to get vitamin A to people in the Third World, but you won’t find those being discussed by Nobel laureates – nor, of course, are any of the open letter’s signatories leading a campaign to raise enough money to buy the patent for the GMO rice and donate it to the United Nations, let’s say, so poor Third World farmers can benefit from the rice without having to spend money they don’t have in order to pay for it.

These are the issues that have been raised by Greenpeace among others. To respond to that with a straightforward display of the logical fallacy called argumentum ad auctoritatem – “I’m an authority in the field, therefore whatever I say is true” – is bad reasoning, but far more significantly, it’s inept politics. You can only get away with that trick a certain number of times, unless what you say actually does turn out to be true, and institutional science these days has had way too many misses to be able to lean so hard on its prestige. I’ve noted in previous posts here {1} the way that institutional science has blinded itself to the view from outside its walls, ignoring the growing impact of the vagaries of scientific opinion in fields such as human nutrition, the straightforward transformation of research into marketing in the medical and pharmaceutical industry, and the ever-widening chasm between the promises of safety and efficacy brandished by scientists and the increasingly unsafe and ineffective drugs, technologies, and policy decisions that burden the lives of ordinary people.

There are plenty of problems with that, but the most important of them is political. People make political decisions on the basis of their values and their perceived interests, within a frame provided by accepted facts. When the people whose job it is to present and interpret the facts start to behave in ways that bring their own impartiality into question, the “accepted facts” stop being accepted – and when scientists make a habit of insisting that the values and interests of most people don’t matter when those conflict, let’s say, with the interests of big multinational corporations that employ lots of scientists, it’s only a matter of time before whatever scientists say is dismissed out of hand as simply an attempt to advance their interests at the expense of others.

That, I’m convinced, is one of the major forces behind the widening failure of climate change activism, and environmental activism in general, to find any foothold among the general public. These days, when a scientist like Tyson gets up on a podium to make a statement, a very large percentage of the listeners don’t respond to his words by thinking, “Wow, I didn’t know that”. They respond by thinking, “I wonder who’s paying him to say that?” That would be bad enough if it was completely unjustified, but in many fields of science – especially, as noted earlier, medicine and pharmacology – it’s become a necessary caveat, as failures to replicate mount up, blatant manipulation of research data comes to light, and more and more products that were touted as safe and effective by the best scientific authorities turn out to be anything but.

Factor that spreading crisis of legitimacy into the history of climate change activism and it’s not hard to see the intersection. Fifteen years ago, the movement to stop anthropogenic climate change was a juggernaut; today it’s a dead letter, given lip service or ignored completely in national politics, and reduced to a theater of the absurd by heavily publicized international agreements {2} that commit no one to actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Much of the rhetoric of climate change activism fell into the same politically incompetent language already sketched out – “We’re scientists, you’re not, so shut up and do as you’re told” – and the mere fact that they were right, and that anthropogenic climate change is visibly spinning out of control around us right now, doesn’t change the fact that such language alienated far more people than it attracted, and thus helped guarantee the failure of the movement.

Of course there was a broader issue tangled up in this, and it’s the same one that’s dogging scientific pronouncements generally these days: the issue of interests. Specifically, who was expected to pay the costs of preventing anthropogenic climate change, and who was exempted from those costs? That’s not a question that’s gotten anything like the kind of attention it deserves – not, at least, in the acceptable discourse of the political mainstream. We’ll be talking about it two weeks from now.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

In other news, I’m pleased to report that the print edition of The Archdruid Report is now open for subscribers. Stone Circle Press, appropriately enough, will be publishing the Report monthly as a zine. Their sales website, still very basic as yet, is at {3}.

_____

John Michael Greer is Past Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America {4}, current head of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn {5}, and the author of more than thirty books on a wide range of subjects, including peak oil and the future of industrial society. He lives in Cumberland, Maryland, an old red brick mill town in the north central Appalachians, with his wife Sara.

Links:

{1} http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-view-from-outside_18.html

{2} http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/12/too-little-too-late.html

{3} http://stonecirclepress.bigcartel.com/

{4} http://www.aoda.org

{5} http://www.druidical-gd.org/

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.jp/2016/07/scientific-education-as-cause-of.html

Categories: Uncategorized

A Turkey of a Coup

by Dmitry Orlov

Club Orlov (July 19 2016)

A lot of words have already been said in the past few days about the Turkish coup that couldn’t fly, but strangely enough some rather obvious things went unmentioned, so I’ll try to fill in a few gaps. Specifically, a lot of the things that have been said range from feeble-minded to utterly preposterous. If this is propaganda, then it sounds like very bad, weak propaganda. Still, there is no shortage of people endlessly repeating these talking points, whether because they get paid to or because they don’t know better. They are the ones I want to address.

Idiotic Theory #1: Erdogan staged his own coup in order to consolidate his power.

Prior to the putsch, Erdogan went on vacation, which is traditionally the best time to overthrow a leader. For example, Gorbachev’s tenure as “president” of USSR was ended by a putsch in August 1991 while he was on vacation. People who are busy staging a putsch to consolidate their power don’t go on vacations; they are too busy plotting and orchestrating.

Erdogan attempted to fly back to Turkey, only to find that he couldn’t land at İstanbul Atatürk, then found himself chased by hostile F-16s. He then flew toward Europe and requested political asylum in Germany, which was refused (bye-bye, Germany!). At some point it dawned on him that most of the army and virtually all of the people in Turkey were on his side, and so he called upon them to take to the streets in defense of the legitimate government. He did this using an improvised public communications technique that was almost a mockery of itself: his face on a cell phone held in front of a television camera. What followed wasn’t some peaceful, timid demonstration in support of the status quo but gonzo political action, complete with civilians laying down in front of tanks and getting crushed, followed by other civilians jumping on top of tanks and slitting the drivers’ throats. The putsch crumbled.

The optics of all of this are hard to misread. He went on vacation; he tried to flee; he begged his people for help over a cell phone. He ended up looking like a very weak and confused leader in a region where leaders either look strong or they don’t stay leaders for long. Do you still think that he planned all this? I don’t.

Idiotic Theory #2: Erdogan is wildly unpredictable and crazy.

No, the poor fellow just made a lot of mistakes. The modern world is very complicated, and he is just a national politician, not some geopolitical genius extraordinaire. He tried to work with the EU. Then, when Brexit happened, he realized that the EU is now a dead union walking. He tried to work with Nato; then he realized that Nato is a suicide pact that’s trying to provoke a suicidal war with Russia, with Turkey the inevitable loser. Here’s a really simple alternative theory: maybe he was just doing his best, which hasn’t been very good.

There is plenty more evidence of that. Erdogan has played all of his cards wrong:

* He did not stand in the way of the US and others supporting ISIS and Al Qaeda in Syria, aka Al Nusra, allowing Turkey to serve as a conduit for stolen Syrian and Iraqi oil which ISIS exported to Israel and elsewhere, and allowing weapons and jihadists to flow the other way. He also allowed his own son to profit from this shady business. Enriching your enemy is generally a bad plan.

* He did not hinder those who organized the European “refugee” crisis (George Soros et al) only to realize, after several horrible terrorist attacks, that he had allowed thousands of terrorists to infiltrate Turkey just like they did the EU. Trying to curry favor with the EU (with the idea of joining it) while at the same time helping to undermine it by flooding it with terrorists, and destabilizing your own country in the process, was also a bad plan.

* He responded in exactly the wrong way to the unprovoked Nato shoot-down of a Russian plane over Syria, which resulted in painful Russian sanctions against Turkish agricultural exports, construction companies and tourist industry. Then he realized that he had made a bad mistake, made a sudden about-face and apologized to Russia. But by then he had squandered much of the hard-won good will of the Russian people. (Russia and Turkey had fought many wars, and Russians, like elephants, never forget.) Wrecking relations with a neighboring country, on which your country depends to keep your people employed and the lights on, is a very bad plan indeed.

All of this also made him look very, very weak.

On the other hand, the Turks are a strong people. Their army – at least the part of it that staged the coup – is a … Nato army, good at taking their uniforms off in public and running away (see photo), but the Turkish people can apparently handle the situation on their own. They clearly did not want to end up living under a pro-Western military dictatorship, like Egypt. Do you notice how little news there is coming from Egypt, in spite of all the terrible human rights abuses taking place there? That is because Egypt has been back under Western control ever since the democratically elected Moslem Brotherhood had been overthrown by the military. It doesn’t matter to the West that Egypt is no longer a democracy, or that human rights have pretty much gone missing there.

But this does seem to matter a great deal to the Turks! The only part of this that has been hard to predict is how long it would take Erdogan to actually understand what’s happening and to start responding adequately to the demands of the situation.

Idiotic Theory #3: Erdogan is a “new Hitler”

First, see above;

Erdogan is weak. (Was Hitler weak?) But in spite of being weak, and in spite of making a lot of tactical errors, he is a popular leader pursing a correct overall strategy. He has taken the country in the direction in which the wind is blowing throughout much of the world anyway – away from failed Western liberal stage-managed democracy and toward resurgent populist conservative authoritarianism a la Moslem Brotherhood, or United Russia, or the National Front in France, or Donald Trump in the US, or any of the other popular movements that are poised to be voted into power in many parts of the world over the coming years. What Turkey needs in order to fight off the mutually supportive combination of Moslem Extremists and Globalizing Corporatists (ME+GC) is a stronger leader, not a weaker one.

Second, when various mouthpieces in the West start calling somebody “Hitler” – watch out for “regime change”! But their regime change machine seems to have stopped working a while ago. They tried it on Putin; that fizzled. They tried it on the Ukraine; that’s the last time it worked. They’ve been trying it on Assad for five years; he is still there. Now they are going to try it on poor embattled Erdogan? Let’s hope it doesn’t work on him either. The US and Nato had a good long run destroying one country after another – Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the Ukraine, Syria, Yemen – but there’s hope that this wave of destruction is finally over. Let us hope that they do not succeed in turning Turkey into a failed state along with all the others.

Third, the stated reason for calling Erdogan terrible names is that he is antidemocratic. Here, a couple of observations are in order. Lack of democracy is never a problem as far as the West is concerned: look at Egypt. If the people insist on electing someone the West doesn’t like – forget about democracy! Live under a military dictatorship until you have learned your lesson! Then, have you noticed just how badly Western-style representative democracy tends to function in ancient, tribal societies throughout the Middle East? Well, it turns out that democracy doesn’t work in these societies, and that popular authoritarianism is a much better way to go – unless what you want to produce is a failed state and a refugee crisis.

Erdogan is no Hitler. He may not seem like the most fabulous national leader ever, but if you look around, he actually doesn’t look that bad in comparison. Look at the US, whose Black President has driven blacks to start assassinating policemen. Or look at Greece, which went from the birthplace of democracy to the deathplace of democracy in one easy referendum followed by instant capitulation. Or France, with its Francois “get used to terrorism” Hollande who pays thousands of euros a week just to keep his balls shaven. Or Brexitania, which dumped Prime Minister Fooked-A-Pig only to replace him with dug-up Margaret Thatcher. And then there’s the Ukraine, with its alcoholic president Porky, parliamentary crotch-grabbing maneuvers and a Speaker who needs a speech therapist … No, Erdogan is looking pretty good, actually. Be happy, Turks, you got a winner!

 

* * * * *

 

Since its founding as a modern nation-state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has remained at a crossroads between the east and the west. In recent decades, while the European project was showing some promise, Turkey looked west; now that the European project is in shambles, it is time for it to face east again. The idea of Turkey’s ascension to the EU is dead already. Now what Turkey needs to do is to extricate itself from the ridiculous, incompetent suicide pact that is Nato and make new security arrangements within a broader Eurasian context. (John Kerry recently said something about kicking Turkey out of Nato for being antidemocratic; that sounds very much like “You can’t fire me; I quit!”)

Then Turkey has to deal with the nasty contingent variously known as Wahhabists, Salafists, Takfiris and Jihadists. (If you don’t know who they are, you can call them “Moslem Extremists” (“ME”) but don’t just call them “Moslems” or you’ll sound ignorant.) And then of course there are the Globalizing Corporatists (“GC”), who are always looking for opportunities to dismember a country by “privatizing” it and carting it off piece by piece, and who have to be kept at bay until their global financial scheme finally blows up. ME+GC is a nasty combination, and this will not be an easy task. I hope that the Turks are up to it.

http://cluborlov.blogspot.jp/2016/07/a-turkey-of-coup.html

Categories: Uncategorized

Risking Nuclear War

US-Nato Border Confrontation with Russia

Michael Hudson interviewed

by Jessica Desvarieux

CounterPunch (July 19 2016)

JESSICA DESVARIEUX: President Obama met with Nato leaders in Warsaw last weekend to what seemed like a restatement of vows to protect Europe. Let’s take a listen to what the president had to say.

 

 

BARACK OBAMA: In this challenging moment, I want to take this opportunity to state clearly what will never change. And that is the unwavering commitment of the United States to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common defense. Throughout my time in office, one of my top foreign policy priorities has been to strengthen our alliances, especially with Nato. And as I reflect on the past eight years, both the progress and the challenges, I can say with confidence that we’ve delivered on that promise. The United States has increased our presence here in Europe. Nato is as strong, as nimble, and as ready as ever.

 

 

So ready that the president will be sending 1,000 troops to Poland as one of four battalions that are being sent to countries bordering Russia. But what is really at the heart of this matter? Are these just tactics by the US leading to an escalation of tensions between the US and Russia? And what role should Nato be playing in maintaining a balanced Europe?

Now joining us to help us answer these questions is our guest, Michael Hudson. Michael is a Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. He’s also the author of many books, including his latest, Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy (2016).

Michael, we just heard President Obama pledging his allegiance to protecting Europe. Does Europe really need protecting, though?

MICHAEL HUDSON: Well, as soon as Obama said those words, there was a flurry of European statements saying that Obama and Nato were making Europe less secure. The French prime minister, Francois Hollande, says that we don’t need Nato. Nato has no role to play in our Russian relations. Then leaders of the two major German parties, both the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats, said that Nato was warmongering. Gorbachev came out and said the world has never been closer to nuclear war than it is at present. William Perry, the former head of the Pentagon in the mid-1990s, said that Nato was threatening and trying to provoke atomic war in Europe.

One of Russia’s leading military strategists said, here’s what the problem is: Nato wants to move bombers and atomic weapons right up to the border of Russia. That means that if they launch a missile over us, we have only a few seconds to retaliate. President Putin a little while ago had given a speech saying that Russia doesn’t really have a land army. In fact, today, no country in the world – in the Northern Hemisphere, at least – has a land army that can invade anywhere.

Try to imagine America being invaded by Canada, or by Mexico on its borders. You can’t imagine it. Impossible. No democracy can afford a land army anymore because the costs are so high that the costs of mounting a land war will just impoverish the economy.

As a matter of fact, what Nato is trying to do is to goad Russia into building up an army so the US can undercut its economy by diverting more and more resources away from the economy towards the military. Russia’s not falling for it. Putin said that Russia has no intention of mounting a land army. It is unthinkable that it could even want to invade the Baltics or Poland.

But Putin did say that Russia has one means of retaliation. That’s atomic bombs. Atomic weapons are basically defensive. They’re saying that they don’t need an army anymore. Nor does any country need an army if they have an atomic weapon, because if you attack them, then can wipe you out. And they’ll be wiped out, too, but no nation is going to be able to conquer them. No country, really, can conquer any other country in today’s world. That means that Russia can’t conquer Europe by invading and occupying it.

In effect, Putin and the Russian leaders have said, look, if an American plane goes a little bit off into Russian territory, like ships often try to provoke things, they don’t know whether it’s an atomic attack at all. Russia can’t take a risk. If there’s a little bit of a movement against them, they’re going to launch the hydrogen bombs, and there goes Berlin, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Brussels. That’s why you’re having all of these warnings.

Europe seems increasingly terrified that Obama is going to destabilize Eurasia. Even more terrified of Hillary getting in, who’s indicated she’s going to appoint a superhawk, the Cheney protege Michele Flournoy, as Secretary of Defense, and appoint Victoria Nuland as Secretary of State.

I’ve been in Germany twice in the last two months, and they’re really worried that somehow America is telling Europe, let’s you and Russia fight. And basically it’s a crisis.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Michael, I want to get back to your point about how we’re seeing this narrative develop about a potential nuclear war on the horizon. And it seems like it’s quite real. This is not just conjecture, here. We have US and Russia’s military forces warning that a nuclear war is nearer than ever before.

So let’s talk about interests, here. On either side, let’s be as specific as possible, and call a spade a spade. In whose interest is it to keep up this narrative? Because I’m sure there are people not just in the United States that profit from this, but also in Russia. Can you speak to that?

HUDSON: Well, one of the points made at the Nato meetings was Nato urged countries not to rely on Russian weaponry. There was an insistence by Obama that the Nato countries spend two percent of their GDP on Nato, on arms, mainly by buying arms from American military manufacturers, Raytheon, Boeing and the others.

Now, look at what’s happening in Europe. It’s not even growing two percent, because of the austerity that’s being imposed on it. So two percent is the entire annual economic growth in Europe. This large amount has to be spent on American arms. So it turns out that this sabre-rattling to Russia is a means of obliging the European countries to pay the United States arms manufacturers for goods, and to basically hold Europe up for ransom, saying if you don’t become a part of this, we’re not going to defend you.

Europe is saying, well we really don’t need defense. We’d rather have an economic relationship with Russia. Especially the Germans say they don’t want the sanctions. The Italians say they don’t want the sanctions. The Americans say, we don’t want you to make money off Russia. Buy from us, not from Russia. Buy your agricultural goods and your other goods from us, or at least from countries in the dollar orbit, not from the Russian orbit.

That, essentially, is what Obama meant by the reset. It meant a new Cold War. But the essence of this new Cold War is to fight in the new way, which is a financial war. The military are now only a catalyst for the financial warfare by the United States.

The first effect of the reset was to drive Russia into an alliance with China. And now, Nato may be overplaying this right-wing hand so much that it’s driving Germany and Italy and France out of Nato. That is the effect … what it’s doing is counter-effective.

DESVARIEUX: Michael, what about on the Russian side? There are interests that are encouraging this reset?

HUDSON: They had hoped that the reset would mean a winding down of military spending. Russia and almost every country would like to use more of its resources for the domestic economy, not for military overhead. America is trying to force Russia to spend more on overhead as part of its economic warfare with Russia.

This was Brzezinski’s plan in Afghanistan, you know, under the Carter administration. The idea was that if you could force Russia to pay more for its military to defend Afghanistan, then its economy would buckle and discontent would spread. This is the essence of American strategy: to spread chaos. Then the Americans can come in and promote nationalist and other localist breakups, and try to break up Russia, just as America is trying to push a breakup of China as a long-term strategy. There’s no way that this cannot backfire on the United States.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk about what everyday people could do to move away from accepting this narrative, or move away from this potential reset that President Obama is proposing? What policy decisions could be made to de-escalate this tension?

HUDSON: Essentially to dissolve Nato, which France has been pushing now for many years. There’s no need for Nato now that there’s no threat of any military invasion anymore. Remember after World War Two, Nato was put up when there was an idea that European countries should never go to war with each other again. There will never be war between France, Germany, Italy. That’s been solved. There’s no way in which European countries will go to war with each other.

The second thing was, what if Russia would re-invade like it did when it fought against Hitler? Well, there’s no danger of Russia invading anymore. In fact, in 1990, when the Soviet Union broke up, the Ukraine passed a resolution that it wanted to remain neutral and benefit from its neutral buffer, pivoting between Russia and Europe. The United States then put $5 billion into Ukraine, and spurred a nationalist-ethnic revolution. It took the United States twenty years to turn that around and break up this neutrality.

The US strategy is to prevent neutrality. Europe’s economic interest is to achieve neutrality with Russia, and have economic unity so that there’s as little chance of any confrontation with Russia as there is among the European countries themselves.

_____

This is an edited transcript of an interview that ran on The Real News Network.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/19/us-nato-border-confrontation-with-russia-risking-nuclear-war/

Categories: Uncategorized

Donald Trump and the Revolt of the Proles

by Mike Whitney

CounterPunch (July 18 2016)

 

 

For the past 25 years, the center-left has told the bottom sixty percent of the income distribution in their countries the following story: “Globalization is good for you. It’s awesome. It’s really great. We’re going to sign these trade agreements. Don’t worry, there will be compensation. You’ll be fine. You’ll all end up as computer programmers. It’ll be fantastic. And, by the way, we don’t really care because we’re all going to move to the middle because that’s where the voters are, and they’re the ones with the money, and they’re the only ones we really care about” … and you basically take the bottom thirty percent of the income distribution and you say, “We don’t care what happens to you. You’re now something to be policed. You’re now something that has to have its behavior changed. We’re going to nudge you into better parts …”

It’s a very paternal, patronizing relationship. This is no longer the warm embrace of social democracy, arm in arm in solidarity with the working classes. They are to policed and excluded in their housing estates, so you can feel safe in your neighborhoods and private schools.

So once this has evolved over twenty years, you have this revolt, not just against Brexit. It’s not about the EU. It’s about the elites. It’s about the one percent. It’s about the fact that your parties, have sold you down the river. {1}

 

 

Liberals and progressives love to point across the aisle and accuse their opponents of racism, misogyny and xenophobia, but that’s not what the Trump campaign is all about. And that’s not what Brexit was about. While it’s true that anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise in Europe and the US, the hostility has less to do with race than it does jobs and wages. In other words, Brexit is a revolt against a free trade regime in which all the benefits have accrued to the uber-rich while everyone else has seen their incomes slide, their future’s dim and their standard of living plunge. As Vincent Bevins of the Los Angeles Times said:

 

 

“Both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for thirty years” … “since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt”.

 

 

Fake liberals like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have been big proponents of free trade and thus contributed greatly to this groundswell revolution against condescending elites and technocrats whose ultimate goal is to level the playing field so that workers in the developed countries compete nose to nose with underpaid wage slaves in China, Vietnam and across Asia. As Blyth says in the YouTube piece:

 

 

Because the long run effect of the euro is going to be to drive western European wages down to eastern European levels.

 

 

Bingo. More and more people know that this this is the real objective of free trade, to lower wages and crush organized labor in order to boost profits. And this is why the media has been unable to undermine public support from Brexit or Trump, because the issues impact working people and their standard of living DIRECTLY. The majority of voters now believe that these elite-backed policies are destructive to their interests and a threat to their survival. That’s why they remain indifferent to the media’s charges of racism.

Elites understand what’s going on. They know they got too greedy and went overboard. They also know the public is mad as hell and want blood which is why the markets have gone crazy. Investors have driven “safe haven” bonds into record territory which signals the big money guys are terrified of the changes that the election could bring. What does that tell you? Check this out from Fortune magazine:

 

 

Wealthy US investors are hoarding record cash balances out of fear that US presidential election will wreak havoc on their retirement accounts a senior USB Group AG executive said … Although the US stock market hit a new high this week, many clients would rather sit on the sidelines than risk the kind of losses they faced in 2008, he said …

A UBS survey of 2,200 high net worth investors found that 84% of them think the election will have a significant impact on their financial health, McCann said, citing a report to be released later in July. {2}

 

 

So moneybags investors think that there’s going to be a day of reckoning and that all the anti-free trade, protectionist rhetoric emerging from the various campaigns is going to weigh on the markets?

It sure looks that way, and some would say that that day has already arrived. This is from the World Socialist Web Site:

 

 

A report issued by the GTA on Wednesday said the term “slowdown” created the impression that, while it is losing momentum, world trade is still growing and one country’s exports do not come at the expense of others. These “rosy impressions” should be set aside because its analysis revealed that world export volume reached a plateau at the beginning of 2015. World trade was not only slowing down, but not growing at all …

The report warned that a “negative feedback loop” could develop where zero trade growth fuelled the resort to ever-more protectionist measures, leading to a further decline in trade. While the report did not draw out the implications of its warning, they are clear. It was such a feedback loop that developed in the 1930s, intensifying the Great Depression and ultimately leading to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. {3}

 

 

Global trade has already been hammered by misguided central bank policies that merely try to steal export-share by weakening the currency. (The race to the bottom.) But now we are embarking a period of strong economic nationalism which threatens to break up the Eurozone, intensify the call for protective tariffs on foreign-manufactured goods, and launch a full-blown trade war on China. And it’s all a reaction to the way that free trade was rigged to benefit the one percent alone. Elites can only blame themselves. Here’s how Glenn Greenwald summed it up in a recent article at The Intercept:

 

 

Brexit … could have been a positive development. But that would require that elites … react to the shock of this repudiation by spending some time reflecting on their own flaws, analyzing what they have done to contribute to such mass outrage and deprivation, in order to engage in course correction …

Instead of acknowledging and addressing the fundamental flaws within themselves, they are devoting their energies to demonizing the victims of their corruption, all in order to de-legitimize those grievances and thus relieve themselves of responsibility to meaningfully address them. That reaction only serves to bolster, if not vindicate, the animating perceptions that these elite institutions are hopelessly self-interested, toxic, and destructive and thus cannot be reformed but rather must be destroyed. That, in turn, only ensures that there will be many more Brexits, and Trumps, in our collective future. {4}

 

 

Western elites were shocked by Brexit, shocked that all their fear mongering and finger-wagging amounted to nothing. The same is true in the US, where the media’s daily attacks on Trump have failed to erode his base of support at all, in fact, they may have added to it.

Why is that? Why has the media’s repudiation of Trump only increased his popularity and strengthened the resolve of his supporters? Has the media lost its power to influence or is something else going on?

The media hasn’t lost its power, it’s just that personal experience is more powerful than propaganda.

What personal experience are we talking about?

Economic insecurity. Brexit was about economic insecurity. The Trump phenom is about economic insecurity. The rise of left and right-wing groups across Europe and the US is about economic insecurity. This isn’t about ideology, it’s about reality; the reality of not knowing if you’re ever going to be able to retire or put your kids through school or make your house payment or scrape by until payday. The reality of muddling by in an economy where the prospects for survival look worse with every passing day. That’s the reality that made Trump possible, and that’s what this election is about, economic insecurity.

Links:

{1} https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwK0jeJ8wxg

{2} http://fortune.com/2016/07/13/wealthy-cash-investors/

{3} http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/07/15/trad-j15.html

{4} https://theintercept.com/2016/06/25/brexit-is-only-the-latest-proof-of-the-insularity-and-failure-of-western-establishment-institutions/

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/18/donald-trump-and-the-revolt-of-the-proles/

Categories: Uncategorized

MH-17: Two Years of Anti-Russian Propaganda

Exclusive: Two years ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot out of the sky over eastern Ukraine killing 298 people and opening an inviting path for a propaganda campaign toward a new Cold War with Russia.

by Robert Parry

Consortium News (July 17 2016)

Perhaps it’s only fitting that as we reach the second anniversary of the horrific shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flights 17, The New York Times would mark the occasion by once more using the tragedy as a propaganda club to advance the neocon goal of a new, costly and very dangerous Cold War with Russia.

On Saturday, the Times again demonstrated its disdain for normal journalistic practices as it picked up an amateur assertion that the Russians had faked satellite imagery showing Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile systems in eastern Ukraine before the civilian airliner was blown out of the sky on July 17 2014.

Since that moment, the Times and other mainstream Western publications have been determined to pin the blame for the deaths of 298 people on Russian President Vladimir Putin so the world could plunge ahead into the latest neocon scheme of destabilizing nuclear-armed Russia with the eventual aim of “regime change” in Moscow.

As revolting as it has been to watch the deaths of innocents exploited in the name of big-power geopolitics, what has been most troubling from a journalistic perspective is that the Times has cast aside any pretense of professional objectivity, much as it did during the deception of the American public over Iraq’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction in 2002~2003.

In this latest burst of anti-Russian propaganda, the Times gives great weight to some bloggers who applied a computer program supposedly to show that two Russian government satellite images were manipulated. The point is to cast doubt on whether the Ukrainian military had missiles in place in eastern Ukraine that could have shot down MH-17.

What the Times leaves out is the fact that Western intelligence has already confirmed that Ukraine’s military did have powerful anti-aircraft missiles in eastern Ukraine on July 17 2014. Last October, a Dutch intelligence report stated that fact based on Nato intelligence gathering, that is, the West’s own satellite and other data collection.

Indeed, the Netherlands’ Military Intelligence and Security Service (“MIVD”) concluded that the only anti-aircraft weapons in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down MH-17 at 33,000 feet belonged to the Ukrainian government, not the ethnic Russian rebels.

MIVD made that assessment in the context of explaining why commercial aircraft continued to fly over the eastern Ukrainian battle zone in summer 2014. (The MH-17 flight had originated in Amsterdam and carried many Dutch citizens, explaining why the Netherlands took the lead in the investigation.)

MIVD said that based on “state secret” information, it was known that Ukraine possessed some older but “powerful anti-aircraft systems” and “a number of these systems were located in the eastern part of the country”. MIVD added that the rebels lacked that capacity:

 

 

Prior to the crash, the MIVD knew that, in addition to light aircraft artillery, the Separatists also possessed short-range portable air defence systems (man-portable air-defence systems; “MANPADS”) and that they possibly possessed short-range vehicle-borne air-defence systems. Both types of systems are considered surface-to-air missiles (“SAMs”). Due to their limited range they do not constitute a danger to civil aviation at cruising altitude.

 

 

Lacking Motive

In other words, the Russians would have no clear motive to doctor satellite photos since accurate ones would have shown the presence of Ukrainian Buk missile batteries in the area. You might have thought that the Times would have considered this fact relevant in evaluating claims from some amateur analysts about whether photos were manipulated or not.

Instead, reporter Andrew E Kramer, who has been a regular contributor to the Times‘ anti-Russian propaganda campaign, treats the findings by some nuclear arms control researchers at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies as definitive though there’s no reason to believe that these folks have any special expertise in applying this software whose creator says requires careful analysis.

Roger Cozien, designer of the filtering software Tungstene, has warned against rushing to judge “anomalies” in photographs as intentional falsifications when they may result from the normal process of saving an image or making innocent adjustments.

In an interview in Time magazine, Cozien said,

 

 

These filters aim at detecting anomalies. They give you any and all specific and particular information which can be found in the photograph file. And these particularities, called “singularities”, are sometimes only accidental: this is because the image was not well re-saved or that the camera had specific features, for example.

The software in itself is neutral: it does not know what is an alteration or a manipulation. So, when it notices an error, the operator needs to consider whether it is an image manipulation, or just an accident.

 

 

As Cozien described the process, it becomes clear that the trick of detecting an intentional manipulation rather than some normal or innocuous anomaly – that might occur in transferring an image from one format to another or making contrast adjustments or adding a word box – is more art than science.

And, there is no reason to believe that the Middlebury Institute’s arms control researchers have some special expertise in photographic forensics beyond having purchased the Tungstene suite of software upon which they based their report at the “armscontrolwonk.com” Web site.

Double Standards

The report’s authors also take the Russians to task for the lack of precision of the two images. “The image files are very poor quality”, they write. “We are very disappointed that the Russian Federation, in such an important matter, would release such low quality images as evidence … Russian officials must know that releasing images in such a format makes it more difficult to verify the integrity of the images …”

Nevertheless, these researchers make sweeping judgments about the presence of a cloud in one photo and the allegedly sharper image of two Ukrainian Buk missile launchers in the other. Yet, why the Russians would add a cloud makes little sense. (July 17 2014, was a partly cloudy day in eastern Ukraine, so perhaps the cloud is in the image just because the area was under a partial cloud cover.)

The researchers archly note that “UN Security Council Resolution 2166 calls on states to ‘provide any requested assistance to civil and criminal investigations’ … We believe Russia should provide the original, underlying images in an unaltered form to the Joint Investigative Team [which is conducting the criminal investigation into the MH-17 crash] to allow independent experts to verify their claims”.

Sure, of course, but the arms control bloggers don’t call on the US government to release its satellite and other intelligence data relating to the MH-17 shoot-down.

The real filter that needs to be applied when dealing with either The New York Times or some of the “citizen journalists” who pop up to reinforce the US government’s propaganda themes is their unrelenting anti-Russian bias. Can anyone recall the last time The New York Times or any mainstream US news outlet has presented a favorable or even neutral story about Russia?

The US ‘Dog Not Barking’

Along those lines, neither the researchers’ report nor the Times‘ article offers any criticism of the US government, which has claimed to have satellite intelligence showing where the anti-aircraft missile was fired but has refused to release that important information to the public or apparently even to official MH-17 investigators.

On July 20 2014, just three days after the disaster, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on all five Sunday talk shows including NBC’s “Meet the Press” where he cited some “social media” to implicate the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and added: “But even more importantly, we picked up the imagery of this launch. We know the trajectory. We know where it came from. We know the timing. And it was exactly at the time that this aircraft disappeared from the radar.”

Two days later, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (“DNI”) released a “Government Assessment”, also citing “social media” seeming to implicate the rebels. Then, this white paper listed military equipment allegedly supplied by Russia to the rebels. But the list did not include a Buk missile battery or other high-powered anti-aircraft missiles capable of striking MH-17, which had been flying at around 33,000 feet.

The DNI also had US intelligence analysts brief a few select mainstream reporters, but the analysts conveyed much less conviction than their superiors may have wished, indicating that there was still great uncertainty about who was responsible.

The Los Angeles Times article said: “US intelligence agencies have so far been unable to determine the nationalities or identities of the crew that launched the missile. US officials said it was possible the SA-11 [the designation for a Russian-made anti-aircraft Buk missile] was launched by a defector from the Ukrainian military who was trained to use similar missile systems.”

That uncertainty meshed somewhat with what I had been told by a source who had been briefed by US intelligence analysts shortly after the shoot-down about what they had seen in US high-resolution satellite photos, which they said showed what looked like Ukrainian military personnel manning the battery which was believed to have fired the missile.

There is also an important distinction to make between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment”, which is the US intelligence community’s gold standard for evaluating an issue, complete with any disagreements among the sixteen intelligence agencies, and a “Government Assessment”, like the one produced in the MH-17 case.

As former CIA analyst Ray McGovern wrote:

 

 

The key difference between the traditional “Intelligence Assessment” and this relatively new creation, a “Government Assessment”, is that the latter genre is put together by senior White House bureaucrats or other political appointees, not senior intelligence analysts. Another significant difference is that an “Intelligence Assessment” often includes alternative views, either in the text or in footnotes, detailing disagreements among intelligence analysts, thus revealing where the case may be weak or in dispute.

 

 

In other words, a “Government Assessment” is an invitation for political hacks to manufacture what was called a “dodgy dossier” when the British government used similar tactics to sell the phony case for war with Iraq in 2002~2003.

However, more relevant to the recent Times article is the fact that the US government has withheld from the public – and even from official investigators – important information for determining the guilty parties and holding them accountable. For instance, neither the Dutch Safety Board, which headed up the initial investigation, nor the Joint Investigation Team (“JIT”) has been able to pinpoint the site of the missile firing.

Though Kerry insisted that the US government knew that fact three days after the incident, the Dutch Safety Board said last October that it had narrowed the likely firing location only to an area of 320-square kilometers covering territory used by both the rebels and the government. The JIT has promised the families of Dutch victims that it would determine that detail later this year (now more than two years after the shoot-down).

If one wants to apply Sherlock Holmes logic to this “dog not barking” problem, you would probably conclude that the US government clammed up after Kerry’s statements and the DNI’s sketchy white paper because – as more evidence was uncovered and analyzed – it was not pointing in the direction that US propagandists wanted.

Lacking Balance

Yet, it is Russia, not the United States, that is taken to task for not providing its data in the most pristine fashion, even as the US government provides nothing at all. And whenever the MH-17 issue is raised in the major Western news media, this strange official US silence is ignored or excused while other inconvenient facts are also left out, such as a report by Der Spiegel that the German intelligence service, BND, had found that MH-17 photos supplied by the Ukrainian government “have been manipulated”.

Even more egregious is the blackout that the Times and other news organizations have applied to the Dutch intelligence report regarding the presence of Ukrainian military anti-aircraft batteries in eastern Ukraine capable of bringing down a commercial airliner at 33,000 feet and the rebels lack of such a powerful weapon.

Plus, there have been official disclosures that raise serious doubts about the integrity of the JIT, which has investigators from the Netherlands, Australia, Ukraine, Belgium and Malaysia, but has fallen increasingly under the control of Ukraine’s SBU, a security and intelligence agency that is responsible for protecting Ukrainian government secrets and that has been implicated in torture and other war crimes against the ethnic Russian rebels.

Earlier this year, an interim JIT report revealed how cozy the relationship had grown between the SBU and especially the Dutch and Australian investigators who have had long stints in Kiev, getting fed “evidence” by the SBU, and depending on the Ukrainian host’s hospitality.

Though this JIT report was released publicly, its contents were ignored by the Times and other publications even amid formal complaints from the United Nations about the SBU blocking human rights investigations into alleged Ukrainian government torture centers.

The SBU’s dominance over the JIT would seem to bear on the integrity of the MH-17 investigation, but this fact also doesn’t fit the propaganda goal of pinning the deaths of 298 people on Russia. Indeed, it would put whatever the JIT does eventually conclude under the suspicion of bias and possible SBU manipulation.

An Obligatory Hat Tip

And, it seems no Times article on MH-17 would be complete without a tip of the cap to the “citizen journalism” site, Bellingcat, which has made a cottage industry out of reinforcing the West’s propaganda themes whether against the Syrian or Russian governments. Bellingcat has remained the beloved Internet site of the mainstream Western media despite a history of getting stories wrong.

In Saturday’s article, Times reporter Kramer cited Bellingcat as a way to bolster the findings of the folks at “armscontrolwonk.com” without mentioning that Bellingcat’s earlier analysis of the “cloud” photo had been criticized by forensics experts for misusing computer software to reach anti-Russian conclusions, or as Der Spiegel reported:

 

 

The research group Bellingcat has accused Russia of manipulating satellite images from the MH17 disaster. But German image forensics expert Jens Kriese has criticized the analysis. He says it is impossible to say with any certainty whether Moscow is lying.

 

 

It also turns out that both Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins and “armscontrolwonk.com” have links to the pro-Nato think tank, Atlantic Council, which has been at the forefront of promoting Nato’s new Cold War with Russia.

Higgins is now listed as a “nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Future Europe Initiative” and armscontrolwonk.com describes one of its writers, Aaron Stein, as a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Stein’s work on the Syrian conflict would intersect with Higgins’s attempts to reinforce Western propaganda blaming the Syrian government for the devastating sarin gas attack outside Damascus on August 21 2013, which proved to be one of Bellingcat’s reporting errors.

On the second anniversary of the MH-17 atrocity, it is sadly not surprising that the Times would continue to grab onto any dubious claim – and present it without meaningful context – as long as the material helps agitate the newspaper’s readers into wanting war with Russia.

_____

 

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His latest book is America’s Stolen Narrative (2012).

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/07/17/mh-17-two-years-of-anti-russian-propaganda/

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